For some reason – probably as an antidote to stress, this being the onset of that silly season – I’ve been cooking a lot of late, in particular trying new recipes from books by my Toronto foodie friends.
If you’ve read the previous blog – my tragic tale of the missing cookbooks – you’ll understand why the tomes in question are dear to my heart.
Especially treasured are those 100 or so that I keep close at hand on shelves I had built for this purpose in the important room where it all happens: my compact, cozy kitchen.
Breaking open a cookbook I haven’t used before is lots of fun. In this case, it was Friday Night Dinners, the latest offering of many by my long-time friend and esteemed colleague Bonnie Stern.
As is my wont, being a food sleuth and all, I asked Bonnie shortly after the book came out (oy vey, that was three years ago) to name her favourite recipe from it. She didn’t miss a beat: “The brisket,” was her reply.
Yesterday, I took the large thawed brisket bought some weeks ago at my trusty Kensington Market butcher Sanagan’s and, Bonnie’s book in front of me, proceeded to assemble ingredients. They were few, sweet and simple. Everything was on hand in my pantry including an almost untouched bottle of Port.
Almost four hours later, when Ross and I came home from a neighbourhood meeting to the beautiful aroma of braising beef, the brisket was ready. Accompanied by mashed potatoes and peas, it was delicious – lashings of rich, wine-infused sauce and tender, juicy meat.
We now have dinner for several days including fodder to fill luscious sandwiches. This would also be a great dish to serve at Chranukah (aka Chrismukah), the minimalist fusion festive feast I favour!
Thank you Bonnie. I’ll be in touch for more recipe tips!
Friday Night Brisket
6-lb/3 kg double brisket
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1 head garlic, separated into cloves, peeled
3 large onions, sliced
1 cup Port
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock, or water
Spread brisket with mustard; sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika.
Place garlic and most of onions in bottom of large Dutch oven. Place brisket on top. Top with remaining onions. Add Port, wine and stock. Bring to boil. Place parchment paper directly on top of brisket. Cover tightly with lid or foil.
Bake in preheated 350F oven at least 3 to 4 hours or until meat is fork-tender. Remove lid and paper; return to oven and cook 30 minutes more or until brisket is browned.
Remove fat from sauce. Serve brisket sliced with sauce and onions.
Makes about 8 to 10 servings.
And now for something completely different – but equally good.
Mairlyn Smith is among my best buddies in the Toronto food world. She’s a generous colleague, a great cook, terrific recipe creator – but, best of all, she’s funny!
An alumnus of the Second City comedy troupe, she gets my jokes and is quick to respond hilariously with her own. We’ve shared many a laugh together, often over the phone when we catch up on what’s cooking in both our lives.
Here’s a fantastic recipe from her latest book Healthy Starts Here! Again, the recommendation came from the horse’s mouth, namely the brilliant author herself.
Once you’ve got the ingredients which I found, believe it or not, at my local supermarket, these are a cinch to make. I often keep one in my car or purse for emergency noshing, any time of day. I did most of this in no time in my standing mixer.
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 1/2 cups large flake rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
2 tbsp wheat germ
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup dried cranberries or blueberries
1/4 cup chocolate chips (at least 60% cocoa mass)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs (preferably omega-3)
4.5-oz/128-mL jar strained prunes baby food
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix together oat bran, large-flake oats, flour, flaxseed, steel-cut oats, wheat germ, cinnamon and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in cranberries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Whisk together brown sugar, eggs, prunes, oil and vanilla in medium bowl until well blended.
Add sugar mixture to oat bran mixture; stir until really well combined.
Scoop batter into rounds a bit bigger than a golf ball (a 1/4-cup/60-mL ice cream scoop works well). Place on baking sheets about 2 inches/5 cm apart. Flatten with hand or back of damp spoon until about 3/4 inch/2 cm thick. (Batter will be sticky).
Bake in oven 13 to 15 minutes or until medium-brown. Cool slightly on cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months.
Makes about 20.